This post has a distinct purpose: to help folks like me open their mind up to good music. Up until about 5 or 6 years ago, I refused to listen to anything that Genesis released after Peter Gabriel left. I was a Genesis purist, and as far as I wanted to see, Genesis were prog’s biggest sellouts. However, I had a conversation with a friend who encouraged me to listen to Trick of the Tail. I discovered after digging into that album that I liked Trick of the Tail just as much as anything pre-Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Then, after hearing Wind and Wuthering, And Then There Were Three, and Duke, I began to reassess the way that I viewed Collins-fronted Genesis. As I listened through their discography, I began to understand that their move to pop music was much more gradual, and that along the way, they made numerous attempts to reconnect to their progressive roots.
There are lots of Genesis fans that already know these songs but this post is for those of you who, like me, refused to give Collins’ era Genesis a chance. So, I present to you: The 10 Proggiest Songs from Genesis Post-Gabriel.
Disclaimer: by “proggiest”, I am referring to elements of progressive rock that were typical of bands in the early 70s, such as odd time signatures, interesting song structure, longer compositions, instrumental virtuosity, unusual subject matter, etc.
“Dance on a Volcano”– from Trick of the Tail. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a Genesis fan following Gabriel’s departure. Gabriel’s theatrics and vocals were such an integral part of the Genesis sound and vibe that I would imagine there would be some skepticism. But, hopefully, this unashamedly progressive song would have assuaged their doubts. With mythical lyrics, an intense 7/8 groove, and a musically adventurous vibe, the song was likely an attempt to reassure fans of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway that Genesis were still in the progressive rock game.
“Squonk”– Written about the Native American tale of the Squonk, this song was apparently Genesis’s answer to Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Although not quite as dark and foreboding as the song they were trying to emulate, “Squonk” is catchy and riff heavy. This song later became a live staple, as Collins tried his best to apply his own theatrical touch to this mythical story.
“Los Endos”– For a moment after Gabriel’s departure, the band considered continuing on as an instrumental trio. I don’t think it would have been a terrible decision, as instrumental tracks like “Los Endos” show us that the four remaining members were capable of exciting and dynamic instrumental songwriting. This song cycles through several of the musical themes found on Trick of the Tail, and was regularly played at Genesis shows for as long as they were a band as a medley of sorts (and also an opportunity for Phil to battle Chester Thompson on drums).
“Eleventh Earl of Mar”– The opener for the follow up Wind and Wuthering, this song is classic Genesis. The lyrics, written by Rutherford after reading a book about British history, are a tongue-in-cheek look at royalty and pageantry, told in the perspective of a child of nobility. Through the eyes of the young, innocent, and naive noble, the story of a failed Jacobite uprising in the early 18th century is told. Clocking at around 7:44, it’s a long, proggy song with regal flair and wonderful dynamics. Unlike some of the other songs on this list, I believe this song could have been on an earlier Genesis album, with Gabriel on lead vocals.
“Blood On The Rooftops”– If you are such a Gabriel purist that you have not heard this gem, you are a masochist. This track is probably the strongest Hackett composition while he was a member of Genesis, and the band agrees. But, I’d go as far as to say that this might be one of Genesis’s best songs. From the lovely classical guitar intro, to the quirky but beautiful chord changes and acerbic lyrics of the verses, to the sweeping chorus, this song is gorgeous and contemplative.
“Down and Out” – And Then There Were Three has been panned by both critics and fans, who claimed the album was uneven and spotty. I’d say for the most part they were right. It is definitely a transitional album, with a pervading sense that the band was struggling to find their footing as a trio. “Down and Out”, however, was unashamedly progressive. This is one of their most musically challenging songs, with a strange, uneven sounding meter that is carried by Collins’ frenetic drumming and Banks’ biting organ. With a haunting organ intro, and a syncopated rhythm over an odd time signature, one almost wonders if this was their attempt to update “Watcher of the Skies”. Apparently, this song was too difficult for the fabulously talented live line-up to perform, so it was scratched off relatively quickly.
“The Lady Lies” – Early Genesis found its strength in the surrealist storytelling, fronted by the costumed and otherworldly persona that Gabriel had created. Storytelling remained throughout the various iterations, but took a more human approach as the band went on. “The Lady Lies” is a classic tragic tale about a lover who ropes the sorry protagonist in with lies of desperation, only to dash him on the rocks, again and again. The jazzy groove in the verse is interrupted by a heavy, intense synth pre-chorus that might actually have you banging your head (but if you don’t, I get it- it’s still Genesis, not Pantera).
“Turn It On Again” – Every now and then a song comes along on the radio that just shouldn’t do as well as it does, but by some fluke in the universe, it succeeds. “Turn It On Again” is a song about a weird guy who watches so much television that he becomes unhealthily obsessed with the characters he sees, pleading them to come and meet him. It uses some really odd meters, starting in 13/8 (or broken down into 6/4 and 7/4) during the verse, and then alternates into 9/8 (which could also be 4/4 and 5/4) in the bridge. All of that is a long way to say that this is a pop song that you definitely can’t dance to. Yet, despite the fact that this is a weird sounding song about a TV addict, it totally works and is a prog-pop classic.
“Keep It Dark” – Many Genesis fans that were able to hold on after Trick of the Tail say that Abacab was the beginning of the end, as the band began to settle into their role as pop rock royalty. Regardless of the fact that “Keep It Dark” is among the singles from this album, it’s still quite proggy. The song is about a man who gets abducted by aliens (who, luckily, end up being quite charitable) that take him away to their amazing, happy, light filled world, only to then drop their guest off in the streets, with no one to tell about his story that would believe him. The song is in 6/4, although the syncopated guitar throughout the verse makes that meter much harder to detect. Like the previously listed song, it works really well as a pop song, despite the quirkier elements (space aliens, odd meter, cheesy video, etc.).
“Domino” – By Invisible Touch, Genesis had pretty much become a pop band (see: American Psycho monologue) with some progressive elements. Invisible Touch is well known for its singles, “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight”, “Invisible Touch”, and “Land of Confusion”. But among these more palatable tracks is the very strange “Domino”, an almost 11 minute song about death and destruction. It features many of the elements that later era Genesis had acquired, namely the stylized 80s’ sounding production and the heavy use of synth. “Domino” was divided into 2 parts: “In the Glow of the Night”, where Collins croons over minimal sounding synth pads and drum machines, and the lively “The Last Domino”, which closes out the song. Tony Banks said he was inspired to write this commentary on violence during the Lebanon War, so the lyrics are remarkably bleak and apocalyptic (“Take a look at the beautiful river of blood!”). Strangely enough, “Domino” charted at number 29 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock Charts, despite the gruesome lyrics and length.
Are there any tracks that you feel like deserve to be included? Any that you would contest?Write them in the comments section.
Driving the Last Spike and Fading Lights from the last Collins/Banks/Rutherford release deserve inclusion – especially the former which tells a story based in fact rather than the fantasies that so often prevailed. Turn it On Again strikes me as too close to pop though I do like it.
One for the Vine from Wind and Wuthering.
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Mama. One for the Vine. All in a Mouses Night. The Duchess suit, including Guide Vocal.
Home by the Sea, 1&2? Duke’s Travels, Duke’s End. I think Duke is a really underrated album. It has elements of pop but there’s some fine music there also. Heathaze is one you don’t hear about much but it’s beautiful. I’m not sure if you could call it progrock, but it’s….something good?
Certainly “One for the Vine” is noteworthy. Thanks for including Los Endos and Dance on a Volcano!
Far from contesting, I would only put a few of your early picks in a very slightly different order: a minor quibble. :p
Their self-titled album was the most — really the only — uneven album they ever did, even in later days, two battling factions of song style making it a head scratcher; and from it, “Mama” was unexpectedly decent following their, um, change.
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While I think everything after “Duke” is very uneven, I agree with above posters that “Home by the Sea” and “Second Home by the Sea,” “Driving the Last Spike,” “Dreaming While You Sleep,” and “Fading Lights” are worth listening to (since the author pretty much stopped with “Invisible Touch.”) “Abacab” has “Dodo/Lurker” on it that is worth a mention. Also, “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” on “Invisible Touch” is a bit more proggy than the rest on that release, excluding the aforementioned “Domino.”